If you ever visit Hartlepool Marina, you may notice a metal statue of a monkey sitting on a platform over the water near the lock gates. When you do, you may wonder what significance a monkey could have to a coastal town in the North East of England.
Then again, if you already know people of Hartlepool are often known as monkey hangers, and understand why, the penny will probably drop as soon as the statue catches your eye.
If you are already aware of the significance of the Hartlepool monkey, this article may not be for you. If you are not familiar with the story, please read on. It’s quite an unusual tale.
The Story of the Hartlepool Monkey
The story that inspired the creation of the monkey statue at Hartlepool Marina is a pretty old one. If the story is true, and it seems probable it is, a live monkey was washed up on the beach at Hartlepool during the Napoleonic Wars.
The events I’m about to describe didn’t happen anywhere near the site of the present marina. They occurred a little further up the coast at Old Hartlepool, near the area that’s presently known as the Headland. More specifically, the story begins and ends on an area of beach known as Fish Sands. You can find it directly in front of The Pot House pub. [MAP]
At the time, the area was mostly home to fishermen, who had placed cobbles on the beach and sold their catch near the water’s edge—hence the name Fish Sands.
The North Sea can get very rough and, on the night in question, a French ship was wrecked during a storm off the coast from Fish Sands.
None of the crew survived but the ship’s mascot, a monkey, was washed up on the beach. It was still alive but did not remain so for long.
The people of Hartlepool had never seen a monkey before. Nor had they seen a Frenchman and, to make matters that bit more confusing, the crew of the ship had dressed the monkey in a French military uniform.
Believing the monkey to be a French spy, the people of Hartlepool arranged an impromptu trial. Needless to say, the monkey was unable to voice any arguments in its defence so the people of Hartlepool found it guilty of being a spy, set up a gallows on the beach, and hung the hapless primate right there and then.
That’s the story of the Hartlepool monkey. It’s also the story that explains why, even to this day, Hartlepudlians are known as monkey hangers.
About the Monkey Statue at Hartlepool Marina
The monkey statue at Hartlepool Marina isn’t just for show. The monkey grasps a bowl that bears a plaque that states “MAKE A WISH FOR THE MONKEY.”
The coins people toss into the bowl before making their wishes are donated to Alice House Hospice.
Alice House Hospice is a local charity that offers comfort and support to people suffering from life-limiting illnesses.
Although the bowl in the monkey’s lap is pretty large, a lot of coins miss the mark and fall into the water below. Volunteers from Hartlepool Divers Club retrieve this additional booty once per year to make sure the hospice does not miss out on any funds.
One of the most interesting things about the monkey statue at Hartlepool Marina is the metal effigy is not a monkey at all. It’s an ape. Probably a chimpanzee.
Chimps, gorillas, and other members of the ape family do not have tails, but monkeys do. Monkeys are also much smaller in size.
Sailors often used to capture them during their travels and keep them as pets. If there really was an execution on the beach at Hartlepool, the primate at the end of the rope would not have looked much like the statue at the marina.
If you want to go and see the Monkey statue at Hartlepool Marina, and possibly make a wish, you shouldn’t have much difficulty finding it.
The statue is only a couple of minutes walk from the marina bars and restaurants. [DIRECTIONS to Help You Find the Monkey]
How Many Monkey Statues?
(Let’s Clear Up the Confusion)
Some sites will tell you there is another monkey statue at Hartlepool. That’s not true. There is only one statue and it’s at Hartlepool Marina.
If you look on Wikipedia and certain other websites, you will find a monkey that looks like the one in the picture below.
The sites that show this metal monkey often refer to it as the Hartlepool Monkey Monument and state you can find it near the beach on Hartlepool Headland. This is not true. It shows a severe lack of research. It also shows how many websites simply publish other people’s mistakes.
This metal monkey is not a monument at all. Nor is it one of a kind. There are 18 of these metal monkeys, sat on pedestals, in various parts of the Headland. They mark points of interest along a walking route known as the Headland Story Trail.
The tall pedestals below these monkeys bear an information plaque that explains why the area near the pedestal is interesting.
However, in some cases, the information has been removed by vandals so it may be easy to look at the metal monkey and believe it to be an important statue or monument when it’s actually just part of a series of information plaques.
It’s a case of each to their own but, in my opinion, the Headland is more interesting than the Marina. If you have time, I highly recommend following the Headland Story Trail. There are some very good views and you’ll see lots of interesting things along the way.
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